Archive for December, 2011

Part II of II: On The US Foreign Services With Greg Seltzer

This is Part II of TSG’s discussion with Amsterdam-based Greg Seltzer of MLSSoccer.com and No Short Corners. You can find Part I, here.

Gatt and a legend...

Matthew: So who are the key Americans abroad that US fans should truly be excited by? So many times one goal is enough to chop a forest worth’s of timber to power the hype machine…who are the Americans that in either good club situations or just have more talent than anyone else that fans will start hearing about in say 2013 or 2014?

Greg: Hmmm. That’s a loaded and difficult question. I think we are already hearing about many of the guys overseas young, such as Josh Gatt.

Considering the new 4-3-3 mandate and his elusiveness, Gatt probably has to be considered among the very most exciting prospects. He’s fast as all hell, fearless and has a great head on his shoulders.

You can certainly add other rising winger-types like Joe Gyau. If you don’t have ace wingers, you can be often up against it in a 4-3-3.

We have several #9 style forwards that have great promise and are in good situations, such as Conor Doyle and Andrew Wooten. I also hold good hope for attackers like Tony Taylor that can move around the forward line. The same goes for Stefan Jerome, who I’ve always been a fan of. Obviously, wingbacks are very key in that formation, so you need to keep an eye on guys like Marc Pelosi and Sean Cunningham.

Of course, a 4-3-3 team must rule the center of the park, so players like Charles Renken, Sebastian Lletget and Will Packwood come to mind quickly. The latter two are currently playing in probably the fastest reserve league in the world, trying to crack into the certainly the fastest league in the world in the Championship – that cannot hurt.

Obviously, if Fabian Hürzeler makes the switch, he zooms to near the top of our excitement list – the kid is smoooooth. I also have a lot of hope for Jared Jeffrey, though his situation is both good and bad until he can crack a stacked first team midfield. I’ve heard raves upon raves for center back John Anthony Brooks, but he’s one I’ve actually yet to see play a real game, so I don’t pretend to know precisely how excited we should be about him.

Back in America, I’m plenty excited about certain players for how they may eventually fit snugly into the 4-3-3. I very much wish Ike Opara could stay healthy. You’ve got guys like Luis Gil, Blair Gavin and Danny Cruz that could really turn out nicely for that set. Naturally, Perry Kitchen is a monster and a bit of a Swiss Army knife, not unlike Zach Loyd. And as always, I remain a big Sean Johnson fan among the keepers.

Some of these guys won’t be ready to be in the squad discussion by 2014, but so much can happen in the career of a prospect in two years. Part of the fun and agony of this kind of excitement is waiting to see how it all turns out. As it looks right now, though, we have plenty to be excited about.

Matthew: Okay, that was a bid email to dissect their. Let’s narrow. You’re top three US prospects. Ones with a chance to make it to the semi’s of the Champion’s League with their club team?

Okay, and moving through leagues a little. Michael Bradley is now the janitor of the midfield at Chievo. Do you see more Americans moving to Serie A in the future or are the homegrown rules too stric

TSG agrees...if he could only get a healthy season or too under the belt...

Greg: My top three wish list based on future need would be probably be Gatt, Gyau and Opara. And, of course, if Liverpool develops Marc Pelosi as a proper raiding left back, the USMNT fandom would swoon. Right now, obviously, Opara needs to stay healthy for five minutes to see if he can fulfill his promise. As for the three that are the best bets at this time, it’s probably Gatt, Kitchen and pick your favorite between Boyd and Wooten. Considering the type of player Jozy is and how young he is, I might actually propose that Wooten gets called first of the two because he brings a little something different in style.

On number two, the roster limit is a hindrance, and sometimes the teams interested in Americans can also be a deterrent. Bradley certainly could have joined a better club from his level, but with Chievo he gets to walk in and be expected to be one of the key players. With some of the other teams that have shown interest in him, that would not be the case. Roma told me flat out they did not envision him starting regularly the first season, and I’m pretty sure that’s all he needed to hear to choose otherwise.

Frankly though, with the USMNT system change, I doubt so many Americans will find that the place to go. Presumably, the mad rush of promising youngsters would now want to flock toward the Eredivisie or Belgium. Players of Bradley’s position can go to Serie A – that works fine. But If an American attacker or wingback or playmaker or center back really wants to jump over to a super-tactical league, I’d suggest France over Italy at this point. And only after pushing him to the Eredivisie. If you want to star for the Nats looking forward, then now is the time to do what Jozy did. Others might disagree, but I’m not especially interested in having our players in Italy. It doesn’t meet our direction.

Matthew: Fascinating insights Greg. So to follow-up what is that is makes Belgium, The Eredivisie, and LigueOne ideal destinations for Americans–how have they become more technical and are they open to receiving more Americans in their ranks?

On the opposite side of the table, do you get a lot of inquires about European players heading westward to MLS? Do media folks, agents, etc ask you about playing in MLS and where do you rank MLS in terms of quality play versus European leagues?

Greg: Well, Belgium and the Netherlands obviously have the 4-3-3 connection which ties into the new US national team gameplan. Besides, it’s kinda hard to not notice that nearly every American that gets to the Eredivisie becomes a key USMNT figure to one degree or another. With France, it’s just that more clubs are spending some money right now than in places like Germany and there’s no great admission roadblock. I have also noticed a steep increase in French clubs checking out our players, so that may turnout to have been a giveaway. Heh.

And on number two, I do sometimes get asked about this. I’ve had players ask me about the league or living there. I’ve had agents with a client that wants to go there, asking about league personnel rules or about which MLS teams might need a player in that position. I’ve also had plenty of writers and execs and fans and whatever you can think of asking about various things with MLS. It still has that

“The Other” vibe, probably mainly because of the distance and structure/format differences. And they don’t show it on TV here, unlike some countries. Of course, Dutch folks are highly intrigued by and attracted to “The Other” – they likely to be worldly. And they love soccer. They’ve recently seen guys like Dave van den Bergh go over to have success and the Dutch do like us, tracking the players far and wide abroad.

They’ve read all the comments by guys like Gullit, Seedorf and Davids that have seen and discussed MLS. It won’t be like that everywhere in Europe. Some places nobody asks this stuff. They only might in Italy or Germany, they won’t in England. The French tend to ask because Henry is there now. I may be at the Euro-epicenter of MLS inquisitiveness, actually. Danes seem to know the most without asking.

Ugh, asking me to do this is career suicide! I’ll forever be the guy who placed MLS below such and such league. Okay, here’s where I honestly stand on this: it’s nearly impossible to judge for two reasons.

You have the oppressive heat MLS guys play in for some months, just when they get to form it’s the dog days already. Secondly, there’s the depth/organization issue. Overall, most of the Euro-clubs we think about should be more consistent and all because they have more player resources. Plus, you have the ever-tumbling parity few leagues can match.

It is the true apple and orange.

If you look at one MLS club and wonder how they’d do in some league over here, well probably not as well as you’d hope they would to be honest. If you take the overall league play, it looks better, because there are certainly times when you could say, oh sure this is certainly as good as an average English Championship game. If forced to set all the excuses and variables aside to just pick a place by how hard it is to play in MLS… I’d say at this time, MLS has passed the Scottish Premier League in overall quality. In fact, with their squad resume, the 2011 Galaxy would actually be a threat to win the title this season. I would generally say MLS is at or near the level of maybe Denmark and Greece, and not quite to the level of places like Belgium, Russia and Turkey. The important thing is MLS raises in quality nearly every season, so it won’t be too long before America can claim a league on par with.

Matthew: Let’s finish up with some softballs. Where does Charlies Davies head next? Is it Europe? Who is the next American to play in Champion’s League?

Greg: Yes, Charlie looks set for a new Euro-address. I have a few clues and have eliminated some areas as possible destinations, but haven’t been able to pinpoint where he’s headed. Yet, anyway.

The only American with a ticket to play in the next Champions League right this moment is Josh Gatt, so that was probably easier to answer than you’d hoped.

Beyond him, I’m very confident Sacha Kljestan will be there next Fall, as will Mo Edu provided he doesn’t leave Rangers.

Beyond them, guys like Jozy, Jermaine Jones and Michael Parkhurst are in great position at midseason to qualify. Then there’s Bryan Gerzicich at Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona. They are the surprise leaders in Israel, but still with plenty of work to do to get to the Champions League. As is, it seems pretty safe to say next season’s Champions League class of Americans will come out of that group of players unless some big club manages to grab Clint Dempsey in the summer.

<END>

Report: David Beckham Gonzo, Headed To PSG For Hefty Price Tag

(Lot of news snippets today).

Oui Paris for Beckham

Reports out of Paris today–that’s Le Parisien’s (a Paris daily) on the left–that David Beckham will–at long last–make his way to Paris Saint-Germain for the tidy fee of $18.7M over 18-months.

Ligue1 will represent the fourth league that Beckham will attempt to win a championship in (The Premiership, La Liga, MLS); his legacy of a nomadic footballer championship-seeking footballer will be cemented with a win in Paris.

Beckham’s departure was all but a foregone conclusion after he led the Galaxy to the MLS Cup this year.

With little left to prove in MLS, the Beckham brand–one that is very careful about it’s placement–stood to only lose value in the States after the triumph. For Galaxy fans, the news comes on the heals of Juninho heading south back to San Paulo. Beckham’s move, if true, would leave the Galaxy with a gaping hole in linking midfielders and there next move will certainly look to shore that position up.

Luis Suarez Banned 8 Matches by FA

Suarez...

Liverpool striker and Uruguayan national Luis Suarez was banned 8 games today by England’s Football Association for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, cited for calling him a “Negro” on multiple occasions in a game in October. Suarez will also be fined £40,000.

Suárez has 14 days to appeal the ruling and sentence.

Suárez admitted calling Evra a “Negro” but denied it was an insult. He reciprocally alleged it was a reply being “South American” by his opponent. Evra alleged he was racially insulted 10 times by Suárez.

The ruling will bring more attention to the ongoing case of Chelsea instigator John Terry who was marked later that month by QPR’s Anton Ferdinand for a single racial taunt.

The ruling also calls into question the recent remarks and comments by FIFA president Sepp Blatter who suggested that racism on the field be dealt with between the players and settled with a handshake.

It’s astounding that in this day and age that this type of garish, unsportsmanlike behavior continues, but is also subject for debate. There is no room in sports for Suarez’s onfield commentary, within or external to the gamesmanship at hand.

Update:

Liverpool have issued a statement, expressing shock at the verdict:

Liverpool Football Club is very surprised and disappointed with the decision of the Football Association Commission to find Luis Suarez guilty of the charges against him.

We look forward to the publication of the Commission’s Judgment.  We will study the detailed reasons of the Commission once they become available, but reserve our right to appeal or take any other course of action we feel appropriate with regards to this situation.

We find it extraordinary that Luis can be found guilty on the word of Patrice Evra alone when no-one else on the field of play – including Evra’s own Manchester United teammates and all the match officials – heard the alleged conversation between the two players in a crowded Kop goalmouth while a corner kick was about to be taken.

The Club takes extremely seriously the fight against all forms of discrimination and has a long and successful track record in work relating to anti-racist activity and social inclusion.  We remain committed to this ideal and equality for all, irrespective of a person’s background.

LFC considers racism in any form to be unacceptable – without compromise.  It is our strong held belief, having gone over the facts of the case, that Luis Suarez did not commit any racist act.  It is also our opinion that the accusation by this particular player was not credible – certainly no more credible than his prior unfounded accusations.

Part I of II: On The US Foreign Services With Greg Seltzer

Amsterdam-based Greg Seltzer is certainly a unique cat.

Seltzer

Greg decided long ago to make his name and career in soccer reporting and found himself relocated over to the Netherlands reporting for Soccer America.

With the re-vamp, or re-start if you prefer, of MLSSoccer.com and the need for a qualitative reporter on player movement became clear, Seltzer fit the bill.

Greg writes at both MLSSoccer.com and his blog “No Short Corners.” he’s built an extensive network of overseas sources and usually the first place you can go to get an educated corroboration or refutation on an American player movement rumor.

Kljestan for Anderlecht...

Greg’s been nice to engage me from time-to-time on TSG and we’ve had our moments of agreement and disagreement whether it be debating about the merits of a Jeremiah White call-in because the United States Men’s Team was in Denmark to trying to get scoops when Charlie Davies was at Sochaux to sparring on Sacha Kljestan’s expected playing time at Anderlecht (Greg was right–Kljestan is one of the minutes leaders at the club this season) or tussling over Roma news–for what’s it worth TSG doles out the snark on Roma rumors, but Greg’s got the sources and corroboration. Somethings going to give there at some point.

Greg’s been a good spirit and always been helpful in providing perspective and data that’s not available either in the States or only available to him. It’s easy enough for me to comment that he’s got probably the best true handle on pre-movement news on American players in Europe than just about anyone.

So, his perspective is quite unique.

Greg was nice enough to work on this back-and-forth email exchange–today is Part I–as good fodder here for discussion during the holiday news pre-transfer window doldrums.

We’ve broken it into two parts to focus the discussion in the comments section. Today, general American player value. Tomorrow, specific player movement and potential.

Matthew, TSG: Greg, thanks for taking the time. More important development for US players aboard heading into 2012: Jurgen Klinsmann’s rolodex or increased acceptance of US players skill set across the major league’s in Europe?

Greg, MLS: I would lean toward the second choice… only it’s not such an acceptance of of the “US skill set” – which is really more an intangible set than a skill set, to be honest. The American player has been appreciated in Europe for things like work ethic and field leadership for a good while now. That’s not novel. What’s on the rise is the actual skill set, which makes these players easier to appreciate for more than being “a typical US player” that busts his ass for the team and connects to the supporters.

Bradley for Chievo...

Now, some of our players can actually score silly goals to knock Juventus out. They can actually help Chievo beat two first place teams in a row with soak-up-pressure strategy, having just walked in the Serie A door. They can actually play some defense in Portugal, which is not an easy league for defenders. They can help Norwegian teams win their first title as a teen playing out of position half the time.

The better American players get, the more they will be appreciated. The more they’re appreciated, the more they’re brought over and given responsibility, the more cultured they are come World Cup time. It’s that simple. Scouts aren’t jingoistic and the dudes who sign the player bill don’t play favorites – these people just want players for winning and representing the shirt. Coaches are the wildcard with attitudes for or against this or that, but that’s whole other story.

Not to downgrade Klinsman’s connections or experience – or the development capability of MLS, for that matter – but, as is, growing expectations fall on the national team with a Euro-footprint growing every year. Now, it’s up to Klinsmann to fulfill the more reasonable expectations and take us up a tier. That’s his task and it’s no surprise that he’s hooking Nats up with training stints like an epidemic right now. He definitely know’s what’s up in that regard.

Matthew, TSG: Interesting take Greg. So it’s almost inverse with Klinsmann–the US player has been making strides and it’s up to Klinsmann to capitalize on the increase talent.

Here’s another juxtaposition:

All things being equal, do Americans have a fair shot in Europe when going up against a player of any other nationality? For example, if Brek Shea’s agent is angling for a transfer to say Arsenal and Arsene Wenger if choosing between he and say French U-23 player Frederic Bulot. Does it matter if one is American or not?

Anthony Brooks...

And does that adage hole true if it we’re comparing a “Euo-raised American,” say John Anthony Brooks and say England U-20 Reece Wabara and they are both the transfer target of say, Real Madrid?

Greg: MLS: That sounds pretty good, much more concise than mine.

Things aren’t equal in several countries for American signing. The Eredivisie has its minimum non-EU salary near a half-million Euros, the UK has its work permit ordeal, other leagues have homegrown roster quotas and non-EU squad limits to think about. A few countries are “the most equal” in the regard, places like obviously Germany, Denmark, Belgium.

From a player standpoint, it’s certainly possible that a coach will make more of an effort for promising domestic starlet over a foreigner, or a Dutch coach may feel more at ease with a Dutch player fitting into a 4-3-3. Other than these issues, Americans are plenty popular as targets. Even I don’t hear about everything that goes on, or maybe I hear about it much later. Obviously, Americans who hold EU passports are the most “equal” of all.

As for the other thing, if Real Madrid is after an American, where he was “raised” as a player is about the last thing on their mind. But they are quite on their own planet, really. That club could think marketing first, as they did when they had a speculative bid for Gooch rejected years back. With a regular-size Earth club, it would depend most of all on the whims of a particular technical director or coach.

Matthew, TSG: Two questions: 1) How important is the agent in the deal these days? Are there package deals? Many thought Freddy Adu getting a trial at Ingolstadt last year was the result of Edson Buddle’s signing….and 2) On average, are Americans “cheaper” than others players?

Greg, MLS: The influence of the agent depends, probably more on average when the players are less well-known. I don’t know about package deals, but having prior working contact with a club certainly helps. I’m pretty sure Ingolstadt just wanted offense to stay up and the agent had another idea for them.

On average, perhaps, but that is starting to go away a bit. And the best American players in MLS can often be more expensive because they have a major marketing value at home. If the Galaxy gave up Landon Donovan, they would not simply be giving up his playing aspects. The days of grabbing Michael Bradley for peanuts are over. That won’t happen again.

Matthew, TSG: So who are the key Americans abroad that US fans should truly be excited by? So many times one goal is enough to chop a forest worth’s of timber to power the hype machine…who are the Americans that in either good club situations or just have more talent than anyone else that fans will start hearing about in say 2013 or 2014?

Part II will begin with Greg’s answer here.

Video: Camp Junior Mint: Day One for U-23′s

Day One at the U-23 camp in Florida….

Ode To The Great One, Mr. Constant, George Vecsey

Perhaps it only fitting that I learned about it on Twitter, the preferred destination of choice today for breaking sports news and story distribution.

The Great George Vecsey....

The great and incomparable New York Times sports reporter and event recorder George Vecsey retiring his weekly column.

Say it ain’t so George. Say it ain’t so.

The news felt like a gut punch. An end of an era. The moment conjuring up nostalgia for early years of washing newsprint off my hands. Sundays they were near charcoal.

After taking it in I went down to my local coffee shop, played some Oscar Peterson on my laptop and read through some of Vecsey’s older columns.

Unexpectedly, emails from a few soccer buddies-teammates dribbled in. They wanted to make sure I knew–because of this publication and professed adoration–the Vecsey “news.” They praised his style and memory.

That’s something isn’t it.

———

Sunday mornings in the Tomaszewicz household were nearly always the same.

Our family would go to Church.

We’d have breakfast and then the weekly fight over who got to read what section of the newspaper.

Sundays...

The following sight is not an uncommon one on a Sunday morning growing up in suburban New York: A father walking with a stack of the days newspapers and perhaps a white rectangular box with candy-cane striped cord that held some pastries. That was a constant in our house on Sundays–one of the few times our family did something together as school, sports and extracurricular activities overtook family time.

The family would move into the living room after eating. My dad would tune the dial to 88.3—a jazz station in the Tri-State area. He’d then fill himself a gargantuan  cup of coffee in a 1979 Fireman’s Wetdown Benefit beer stein–he still has that mug; it’s also a classic.

My dad staunchly believed that reading the New York Times, specifically doing the crossword puzzle could improve SAT scores. Maybe it does–I never did it enough to figure it out.

My sister would get a blanket and grab the Science Times from the NYT or the crossword puzzle–she wasn’t in the fight.

My brother and I would engage in a battle over who got to read what sensationalized sports tabloid first before the Times–the Daily News or the New York Post. As the competition got more intense, we’d take turns hiding the newspapers once my dad walked in or hiding one section in another.

After the familial ordering of the sections, the scuffling wasn’t over.

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